It’s the last Sunday of the month, and this is when I highlight favourite fantasies of mine which I’ve read over the years, First up is Garth Nix’s The Seventh Tower fantasy series, perfect for middle grade readers and anyone who loves fantasy. Garth Nix is my favourite living fantasy writer, and every few years I take out this series and re-read it.
Tal is desperate to get a primary sunstone since his father disappeared with the family’s primary sunstone, and is believed to be dead, and his sunstone lost forever. Without a primary sunstone, Tal and his family won’t be able to enter Aenir on Ascension Day. Aenir is a strange magical place where Tal hopes for a cure for his ailing mother. Ascension Day is a sort of coming of age, where children Tal’s age (almost 14) release their shadow guards and bind a powerful shadow spirit to their service forever. If Tal fails to do so, he will be separated from his family, cast from the ranks of the chosen, and condemned to become one of the underfolk, a servant for the rest of his days.
Tal’s world is one of darkness, separated from sunlight by the Veil. Sunstones are grown and harvested above the Veil, and below the Veil are used for light, magic, achievement, punishment, greeting, status and so much more. Tal’s world consists of an enormous castle which is not safe to leave, and society is divided into seven orders, which, like the seven towers of the castle, are named after the colours of the rainbow, and then there are the underfolk who dwell practically in darkness. The orders live in their designated part of the castle, are hierarchical, with red being the lowest and violet the highest, and within each order are other levels through which you can advance if you work hard and presumably please the right people. The chosen are all about politics and social advancement, the underfolk do all the work. Tal is in the orange order, with plans to advance to yellow during his life, but all this is put at risk when his father is lost. With the normal avenues of gaining a primary sunstone being unexpectedly closed to him, Shadowmaster Sushin, a powerful personage not only within the orange order but close to the empress, seemingly determined to destroy him, Tal is left with only one choice to save himself and his family – climb the red tower through the veil and steal a primary sunstone himself.
As the first book in the series is called The Fall, you can guess how well that goes! There is so much to love in this richly imagined series, the world, the magic, the unjust social structure, the danger, the quest, the stakes, the characters – all so good! I love the shadow guards, magical beings from Aenir who replace a child’s natural shadow when they are born, and set to guard and help the person until they come of age (when they must got to Aenir to capture a more powerful shadow spirit to replace it). How much I would love to have one! The magic system is absolutely brilliant, and used so well and so imaginatively throughout the story. Tal is impervious to the injustice of his world, just taking it for granted, until his life is upended by his failure to get a primary sunstone. The story is so exciting for not only has Tal a family to save, a society to fix, slaves to free, but he also has to foil a much greater evil than anyone anticipates. Luckily he gets help from an unexpected place!
Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom Young Adult series is much acclaimed and loved by his fans (I am one of them!) but I always feel The Seventh Tower for younger readers doesn’t get the love it totally deserves. Do yourself a favour, if you haven’t already read these books, go out and get hold of this series. I can’t imagine anyone not loving the story.
TOTP would like to give this series a million diamonds, but our top mark is ten, so a very enthusiastic ten out of ten diamonds.